He makes every little broken thing beautiful

He makes every little broken thing beautiful

I shoved my rear-end closer to the window as the plane prepared for take-off.  The passenger beside me stretched out to get comfortable. I tried to make myself smaller so that I would not be an inconvenience for the person wedged next to me in these impossibly small airplane seats.  Never mind that I had the right to occupy my entire seat.  In my mind, I had no rights.  The space that I occupied was space that I shouldn’t take up.  As I tried to become smaller so that the person beside of me could expand,  I realized that I held a core belief that was horribly faulty.  I could not change my system of thinking on my own.  It was too deeply embedded.  That plane ride was four years ago, before I became sick.

My belief that I was not allowed to take up space was birthed out of a great deal of trauma and abuse.  When a child is taught that she is evil and at fault for the evils that are committed against her,  she learns that she must try desperately to disappear in order to make the world a better place.  Before I learned the truth of my identity in Christ,  I held white-knuckled to this belief.  I held so closely to it that I tried to rid the world of my very existence.  When this type of reality is drilled into your head early in life, it seems nearly impossible to unlearn.

God has a masterful way of using horrible situations to help us grow in ways that we never thought possible. When I got sick, I started to take up more space.  I’m not talking actual physical space necessarily, but a wheelchair certainly takes up more space in a vehicle.  It is harder to hide when you are ill.  You have many more needs than a healthy person.  Those around you are more aware of you and the risks that come with your presence.  With food restrictions, you make a challenging dinner guest.  Often, your dietary limitations dictate the menu for the evening.  When you are a house guest, you quickly become aware of how high-maintenance you are.  Your special diet, need for rest, wheelchair requirements, and medications are front and center.

As my illness gets more severe, I seem to be ever-expanding.  I can’t disappear into the background like I once did.  In a recent church meeting, at each break,  many individuals turned to check on me: to see how I was feeling, if I needed anything to drink, if I needed to lie down.

I am so appreciative of the care that I receive.  I need it.  And I resist it.  God is using my illness, however, to show me that it is okay to take up space.  He is showing me how wonderfully loved that I am, and that He created me to take up a certain amount of space.  He designed me in such a way to make an impact on people, to leave footprints, to change lives.  I can’t do that without taking up space and owning my space.

So here’s the thing:  In God’s gracious, generous way of making every little broken thing beautiful,  He is transforming my illnesses and disabilities into powerful teachers.  He is using them to show me how incredibly valuable that I am.  He is teaching me that I am worth every square-inch of space that I take up.  He is showing me that I am worth the care that people give me.   Why am I worth it?  Because I am His child.  As a child of God,  I have a right to take up space.  Not only do I have a right to take up space, but my existence is important and cherished.

I do not need to try to shrink myself into a half of a plane seat in order to make someone else more comfortable.  I can lean over and start a conversation with my fellow passenger, and we can enjoy the gift of one another.  I don’t have to dismiss my dietary restrictions in order to make my hostess’s job easier.  I can graciously accept generosity and allow others to love and care for me.

Graciously receiving is a gift to the giver and the receiver.

I have lived a life dominated by the lie that I don’t deserve to take up space, and my illnesses have given me the opportunity to take a step back and realize the value of my existence and the space that I occupy.   God created me.  I wasn’t a mistake.  I am still not a mistake.  I don’t have to apologize for my existence.  I also don’t have to apologize for being ill.  I have always been and will be valuable because I am a daughter of God.

There may be those out there who are reading this and thinking, “Well, no duh, Sherlock. Of course you can take up space.  We all can.”  I am so thankful that you have never had to experience the torture of having to live apologetically, desperately trying to pay penance for your very existence.

For those of you who can relate,  please hear me:  You are valuable.  You are made in the image of God.  You can take up the space that you take up.  You’re worth it because God calls you worthy.

And He is making every little broken thing beautiful.

When So Much is Unknown

When So Much is Unknown

How do you know that you have a blind spot? That’s the problem, right? You can’t know what you can’t see until someone tells you that you should be able to see more than what you are currently seeing. And that is exactly what happened for me this past weekend.

In my medical journey, I feel like we are slowly collecting pieces of the broken puzzle that is my body. It is taking much longer than I would prefer, but we are finally moving forward with gathering information.

It was just an eye doctor exam. I expected nothing to come out of it. The doctor just wanted to make sure that my symptoms were not connected to optic nerve issues, and I expected everything to be fine (I always do).   Everything was panning out as I had anticipated, until the last test. The test is called an Automated Periphery test. It basically identifies blind spots in your peripheral vision, and somehow, that can point to problem areas in the brain. To my surprise and ultimately disbelief, I had an abnormal result that was consistent in both eyes. These blind spots indicated, according to the doctor, that I have something problematic in the middle section of my brain, in or around the pituitary gland. During this conversation, he cheerfully used the word “tumor” on several occasions. He also said that it could be benign, and he honestly didn’t seem too concerned or overly urgent. He seems to think that it is sufficient to follow up with the neurologist when we have the appointment scheduled in about five to six weeks at Mayo.

With this information, however, I have a couple competing and opposing reactions. My verbal response to him was something to the effect of, “Yes, I have been aware of neurological issues for some time, and this does not surprise me. I know that there is something very broken in my brain.”   A simultaneous internal response was, “Yeah right. Just wait. Everything is normal. He’s a quack. This, just like everything else, is a waste of everyone’s time and energy.”

In this moment, I am going to put aside the latter thought process so that we can deal with the seeming reality of this awareness. It has been difficult for me to assert the idea that there is something wrong in my brain. Maybe it is the fact that I have so many mental health issues that I cart around. How does one sort out what is brain structure and brain chemistry? What are blind spots and what are normal bouts of dissociation that occur within individuals with PTSD? What is normal? I have no idea, but I have something inside of me that screams, “THIS CANNOT BE NORMAL!!!” I don’t know how many times I have told someone that I think my brain is broken. But, really, who am I to say what a functional brain is supposed to be like? I’ve been on psychotropic medications for 20 years. So this is a tough issue, and I would not place myself on a platform as an expert on healthy brains. Evidently, however, based on my most recent medical feedback, it seems that I have more credibility than I initially suspected.

The other side of this “acceptance of reality” coin is that now I have grapple with the “c” word and the potential of a tumor. And I have to sit with this question for six long weeks. Fortunately, I am far from bored, and six weeks in my life zooms by before I can count to six. Time will fly, because I have two tinies to chase after and a wild pastor husband to keep up with. I have one Bible study to teach and two, maybe three others in which to participate. I have playgroups, music groups, story times, play dates, and crafts to do. I have choir and relationships to maintain. I will blink, and the end of October will be upon us. But still.. TUMOR. In my BRAIN. (Possibly). But still…

So this leads to me to my end of the world dreams. For months, I have been having dreams about the end of the world. I find myself in different but parallel scenarios where I am a protagonist in a fight to the end…the end of the world. I am trying desperately to keep whatever forces that be from destroying our planet. These bad guys are super bad, like aliens twenty times the size of planet earth, and they are out to wipe our species out from existence. They can snuff us out at any point, and for some reason, I am one of the few chosen to try to prevent them from doing so. The problem in this scenario is that I have no idea what the heck I am doing, and I am just a sitting duck along with everyone else. I am no hero. I’m just waiting around to be decimated, but I feel the weight of the salvation of the world on my shoulders. Fortunately, I wake up just as I see the fiery fury coming to consume the planet, including this powerless heroine. The key sense in these dreams is powerlessness. I can’t do one thing about impending doom.

So I wait, with one side of my consciousness (the one that comes out in my dreams) doling out heavy doses of doom and gloom and ultimate destruction, and another side invalidating every single step of this journey, unable to acknowledge a single ounce of my experience as real. Could there be hope, validation, and redemption in the midst of this battle? Could everyone lay down their weapons and surrender to the One who is in control, is the Author of truth, and has defeated death, making a spectacle of it on the Cross? I am powerless, yes. In a sense. But the one who is supremely powerful dwells within me. IN CHRIST, I am no longer a slave to the lies OR to death. Neither force will win in my life, no matter what happens. My Lord, the one who indwells me, is Truth Himself, and He is Life.   I will not shrink back or be consumed by fear. I am safe and secure, no matter what happens.

The Cry

What on earth made you think that it was just about a diet

When you saw the agony plastered on my face?

How could you be so dense to say that it was all about being thin

When you observed the brokenness displayed by my body?

How could you assume that I was just vain and selfish

When every atom of my being screamed self-hate?

You were blind to think that I was shallow

When out of the deepest depths of my being I was crying out.

You were deafened by your own biases,

And you missed the language of the abused.

You were looking to blame the victim,

So the killers got away.